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Public Statements

Disclose Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, we are going to divide this among five Senators so I will just take a few seconds to say corporations are having a field day because they can put all this money in to influence the political system while at the same time being anonymous. They do not have to disclose what every other donor has to disclose when they make a political contribution.

Are they interested in my State, in the quality of the representation of my State? I think they are interested in their own agenda and buying elections.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, before the Senator from Montana leaves, I want to ask him a question. Did he hear, earlier this evening, a Senator come out here and say he thought the DISCLOSE Act would intimidate people from participating in the political process? Is the fact of disclosing where the money is coming from supposed to be an intimidation?

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Mr. NELSON of Florida. Yes, indeed. I thank the Senator for his comments. My comments will be very similar because the DISCLOSE Act is a very simple piece of legislation, and it is about letting people know who is spending money and how much in order to influence elections, and therefore not to allow the democratic process of electing officials to be taken over by a few superdonors who pay for these slash-and-burn negative ads that are also, by the way, patently false.

I have had $8 million of negative attack ads run against me. Every independent fact-checking organization has said they are either false or pants-on-fire false. Yet the public doesn't know where the money is coming from in order to run these kinds of ads.

I really have never seen this kind of situation we are facing this year because this 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision has left the door open for these megadonors to secretly finance and propel the flow of false information. It is not just happening in my State; we are hearing that it is happening in a bunch of States. It is not just in Senate elections; it is happening in elections at all levels, including the Presidential election. What is happening is that these people and these organizations are donating so they can satisfy their own agendas, and they do so in their own self-interest, to see that it is going to be protected in Washington. The ones who are running ads in my State of Florida clearly don't care about Florida; they care about their own political agenda. In essence, they are trying to buy elections.

So with this new crop of secretive donors seemingly popping up--new ones every day--there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. That is why we need a law like the DISCLOSE Act. Voters need to know who is influencing the elections. We as Federal candidates have to know basically every dime of political contributions and--oh, by the way, we are limited in the amount of contributions per contributor that we can take, and we can only take from people, not from a corporation. We are obviously seeing how distorted the implementation of this 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision is in this law. That is why we have to pass a bill to at least bring it out into the sunshine.

In this Citizens United 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision which allows these unlimited donations, the Supreme Court even said in a part of the opinion that there is a need for transparency. Well, that is what we are trying to accomplish with this legislation. The Supreme Court, in its opinion, said that voters should be well informed about the group or the person who is speaking in what they consider free speech. Well, that is exactly what this legislation intends to do. It informs the electorate, makes sure they have the information they need to judge the message for themselves.

This onslaught of unlimited, anonymous contributions puts everyday folks at risk of having their voices drowned out by the billionaires and the corporations. If the campaign law says the average person has to disclose their contribution to a candidate, why shouldn't billionaires and millionaires have to do so as well? It is a question of fairness. There should not be two sets of standards for political contributions.

That is why we are here on the Senate floor well into the night supporting the DISCLOSE Act. We ought to pass this bill. Yet you see partisan politics at its worst when the votes are being recorded. It is simple. It says what has already been described: The person who wants to donate $100, even $1,000, if they are going through a super PAC, they don't have to disclose that, but if they are donating $10,000 or more, then that ought to be disclosed and we ought to know where that money is coming from and what their agenda is by virtue of us knowing where the money is coming from.

This legislation will stop the special treatment for the super PACs by making sure they play by the rules everybody else has to play by.

Mr. President, there is going to be a lot of commentary tonight. I thank the Chair for the opportunity, and I yield the floor.

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